'Why do Democrats hate Jews?'

A reader writes in about anti-Semitism. Plus, the Planned Parenthood defunding.

Today’s read: 7 minutes.

Anti-Semitism amongst “The Squad,” the Planned Parenthood news and lots of interesting numbers to think about.

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A graph that caught my eye.

What D.C. is talking about.

Planned Parenthood. The family planning services organization says it is withdrawing from Title X, a federal program that funds family planning clinics for low-income Americans. Their decision comes after the Trump administration announced a new rule that would forbid clinics who offer abortion referrals from getting Title X money. In short, Planned Parenthood decided it would keep referring its patients to doctors that perform abortions but lose the Title X funding. That means it is out about $60 million it gets through the federal program. Planned Parenthood uses to that money to offer 1.5 million low-income women services like birth control, pregnancy tests, and screenings for STDs through Title X.

What Democrats are saying.

This is going to hurt women. A lot of them. In some states, like Utah and Minnesota, Planned Parenthood is the only place that receives Title X funds and serves upwards of 90 percent of the low-income women. On the whole, 40 percent of Title X patients are covered by Planned Parenthood. If Republicans really wanted to stop abortions, they would be funding a place like Planned Parenthood that gives people access to birth control and sexual education for a very low cost or — in some cases — totally free. Also, Planned Parenthood does a lot more than provide abortions. Women can get cancer screenings, STD tests and medical advice at clinics. We know what happens when clinics like this are shut down: in Indiana, after Pence defunded Planned Parenthood, HIV rates went up and maternal outcomes went down. In rural communities, many of which voted for Trump, Planned Parenthood is the only place to get low-cost reproductive care — which means hundreds of thousands of people are about to have a really hard time finding family planning services.

What Republicans are saying.

Planned Parenthood’s decision proves they are nothing more than an “abortion factory.” If the organization cared about real women’s health care, they would have stopped referring women for abortions and kept the millions of dollars to fund women’s health services. Instead, they opted to pull out — because, like Republicans have been saying for years, abortion is a big priority of theirs. This is a big win for pro-life Republicans who have been waiting for an administration like Trump’s to come along and stand up for the rights of the unborn. And, by the way, they’re not close to done. Matt Walsh, a Christian conservative writer, put it like this:

My take.

Nobody is reading this looking to have their mind changed on abortion. If you already consider yourself pro-choice or pro-life, I doubt what I’m going to say will change anything. However, the simple fact of this news is that it’s going to hurt America’s most vulnerable. Take abortion out of the picture, just for a moment, and consider these numbers: Between 2016 and 2017, Planned Parenthood diagnosed 240,489 STIs. 70,193 women had their cancer or abnormalities detected. And, even with abortion in the picture, 1.8 million women received reversible contraceptives from Planned Parenthood.

We know that sexual education and birth control reduce the number of abortions. We also know that access to birth control does more to reduce abortion rates than restrictive laws (I know some people think Vox is a left-wing rag, but this article is a good explainer of how we know this). We also know that while access to abortion clinics can be a barrier to women getting abortions, most women who need or want abortions will find a way to terminate their pregnancies. No matter how you try to cut this pie, in my estimation, Planned Parenthood has a track record for improving women’s health care, reducing the number of abortions and — if a woman is going to get an abortion — offering that care in a safe and affordable way. Defunding it is dangerous water to be swimming in.

P.S. If you do have an open or inquisitive mind, the best read I’ve ever come across on abortion, and being pro-choice or pro-life, is from Coleman Hughes, a conservative writer. You can read that here.

John Hancock.

Yesterday, I told you about the CEOs who signed a new statement re-defining what a corporation’s goals were — and focusing more on taking care of employees instead of shareholders. I was looking through the signatories last night and noticed something funny… Apple CEO Tim Cook’s signature. It just struck me as… bizarre.

Your questions, answered.

Why do Democrats, specifically “the squad,” seem to hate Jews?

- Mike, Deerfield Beach, Florida.

Hey Mike, thanks for this question. As a Jewish reporter, it’s one that hits close to home. I think there are two reasons that Democrats, specifically the squad, seem to “hate Jews.” I’ll elaborate on both.

Answer #1: Because they’ve made some comments that can easily be interpreted as anti-Semitic. Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley are considered members of “the squad.” Omar and Tlaib, in particular, have been blasted for their comments criticizing Israel or using anti-Semitic tropes. Omar once tweeted that Israel was “hypnotizing the world” and also said some members of Congress and their support of Israel was “all about the Benjamins.” Both play on classic anti-Semitic slurs about Jews: they control the media and powerful political entities and they are using their money to influence the world in a negative way.

Tlaib’s track record is a bit more complex. She hasn’t made the kinds of public comments or posts that Omar has (besides the questionable cartoon she shared on Instagram, which was featured in Tangle yesterday). Instead, it’s about the company she keeps: her planned trip to Israel was going to be organized by Miftah, a nonprofit organization that most newspapers described innocently as headed by a Palestinian peace negotiator. But, as David French explored, Miftah has a pretty sketchy history that includes publishing an American neo-Nazi piece about the Jew-controlled media (Miftah later apologized), a blog post that described a terrorist who killed 13 Israeli children as a hero, and another post describing a female suicide bomber as “the beginning of a string of Palestinian women dedicated to sacrificing their lives for the cause.” All of this has been ignored by mainstream media outlets, and French did a commendable job proving that. There are layers and layers to a sordid history around Miftah that’s only now being pulled back, and Omar’s association is not a good look. It’s obvious why conservative Jews, and some Democrats too, have elevated these associations and comments as proof the Democratic lawmakers are anti-Semites.

Answer #2: It seems like they hate Jews because that’s what the conservative media ecosystem wants you to think. I’m not going to sit here and pretend to know what is in Omar and Tlaib’s heart because I think the jury is still out. But, I can tell you this: lots and lots of the comments they’ve been lambasted for are comments plenty of liberal, American Jews make regularly. Omar and Tlaib clearly have a disdain for the Israeli government, but so do lots of American Jews. That doesn’t make them anti-Semites. The violence between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East goes back thousands of years, and each side can point to an ungodly number of atrocities and war crimes that the other side has committed. Omar and Tlaib are clear in that they believe the current state of Israel is occupying Palestinian land, keeping Palestinians in an open air prison and violently punishing innocent Palestinians throughout the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. And, to be frank, they have some valid points. They also tell some lies about Israel that are commonplace in today’s political discourse.

But each time Omar or Tlaib lob these criticisms, lots of the conservative media distorts them in an effort to make them appear as insidious as possible. What’s clear to me is that a lot of the people accusing Tlaib and Omar of being anti-Semites are, themselves, Islamophobic. That obvious detail should not be swept under the rug.

I could write a book on the differences between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments, and there are plenty of books on the history between Israel and Palestine. But let’s just say that members of the squad have some very concerning associations, have made undeniable use of anti-Semitic tropes, and are also being grossly mischaracterized by a giant, dishonest, right-wing media machine which was going to hate them regardless of how they felt about Jews — simply because they are far-left Muslim politicians.

P.S. Most Jewish politicians are Democrats. Of the nine Jews in the Senate, eight are Democrats and one — Bernie Sanders — is an independent (but running for POTUS as a Democrat and clearly a liberal). In the House, there are 27 Jews. 25 are Democrats and two are Republicans.

P.P.S. Trump chimed in while I was writing this newsletter.

A story that matters.

Much of President Trump’s policy could be undone if he doesn’t win a second term, Axios reports. Trumpism isn’t going anywhere soon, but the legislative wins he’s had are mostly things a Democratic president could reverse in 2020, much like Trump has been trying to undo President Barack Obama’s executive actions. If Trump were to lose re-election, his greatest legacy would be pushing the federal courts to the right with dozens of appointments of conservative judges. But, besides the major tax cut passed last year, Axios thinks the rest of his legislative agenda would be reversed by a new Democratic president. You can read more here.

Some cop news.

Yesterday, Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner with a chokehold in 2014, was fired. That’s comes shortly after Pantaleo was acquitted of murder charges. In California, a new law was passed that narrows the moments officers can use deadly force to instances when they believe it’s “necessary.” If investigators find out an officer used lethal force with other options available, they could face disciplinary actions or criminal charges. It’s being called the strictest anti-deadly force law in America. Here’s the video that started it all:

Some very, very interesting numbers.

Have a nice day.

In the wake of protests in Hong Kong, the Chinese government asked Cathay Pacific’s former CEO, head of the country’s top airline, to send over a list employees who had taken part in the protests. Instead of sending over a list of his employees who protested, which would have endangered their jobs and perhaps their lives, Rupert Hogg sent over one name: his own. Shortly before the request came through, Hogg had to step down under pressure from Beijing. Now, he’s being lauded for not turning on his employees. Read more here.

Is the economy about to crash?

The market is jittery. Plus, questions about our data.

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Last night, I was invited onto CTV News, Canada’s #1 cable news network, to discuss the weekend’s biggest stories. It was my first time ever appearing on their network and they found me via Tangle. Your support, and everyone who shared the newsletter, were a big help. Thank you. You can watch here.

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Today’s read: 8 minutes.

Recession fears, your data, and a personal story that seems relevant.

What D.C. is talking about.

The #TrumpRecession. Yesterday, the faces of President Trump’s economic agenda — Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro — were working the Sunday morning news circuits. That is never a good sign for a president. Kudlow and Navarro were bullish that the United States is not headed towards a recession and argued vociferously that Trump’s trade war with China isn’t hurting American consumers or producers. Their tour de optimism was a reaction to what’s known as a “yield curve inversion.” That’s an economic indicator essentially saying a U.S. treasury bond (think: a loan) will return more cash in 3 months than it will in 10 years. Over the last 70 years, every time these yield curves have inverted — with one or two exceptions — a recession has followed.

What Republicans are saying.

Take a step back. Unemployment is at a 50-year-low, job growth is consistent, wages are moving in the right direction and consumer spending is high. Basically everyone who got in the market when Trump became president has been winning, and that includes a lot of growth in your 401k and other savings accounts. By standard metrics, the Trump economy is cruising and outpacing the global economy. Even GDP growth has exceeded expectations. Trump called the yield curve inversion “crazy” on Twitter and pointed the finger at the federal reserve to lower interest rates (the lower the interest rates, the less people have to pay back on certain loans).

What Democrats are saying.

This is all Trump’s fault. The job growth started under Obama, the economic warnings are only going to get worse and it could have been avoided. Trump’s trade war with China and his fragmented, disorganized policy being led by a rotating cast of characters has left us in a bad spot. The federal government has spent at least $23 billion repaying farmers for the money they’ve lost because of the trade war, and China is going to continue punishing U.S. farmers. The yield curve inversion is a clear indicator the floor could come out any day. In the meantime, Trump’s huge tax cut went largely to wealthy Americans and didn’t produce the reinvestment in America he said it would. Now, the U.S. deficit (that’s the year over year debt) has skyrocketed as a result.

My take:

It’s not a sexy talking point, but continuous economic success usually takes two presidents. If a president is in his first term, a strong economy is an indication that the previous and current president both made smart moves. Trump benefitted from inheriting a stable economy from Obama, then injected it with steroids. The concern has always been whether it will last (in the past, deregulation and tax cuts have caused some economic “overheating”). Nobody can predict a recession, and most of the people who try to are left looking silly. Kudlow was on television in December of 2007 promising Americans that a recession was not realistic and nowhere close. A few months later America was spiraling out into one of its worst economic crises ever, and Americans are still climbing back from that 2008 crash. All that being said, a recession is going to happen — it always does. It’s just a matter of when. I suspect Trump will do anything, even making huge concessions to China, in order to avoid one before the 2020 election. Without a humming economy his 2020 chances disintegrate. That, plus all the positive markers people seem to be ignoring, give me hope the economy will hold on for another few years. And, by the way, all you never-Trumpers should be hoping that, too. No matter how much disdain you have for Trump, a recession will hurt everyone — and nobody will be worse off than poor folks who will lose their jobs or middle-class Americans with already limited savings. While I have you thinking about the economy: I’ve been saying for a few years that the metrics we prioritize to discuss the economy are broken. I’d be far more interested in knowing how many Americans struggled to pay their rent or put food on the table vs. what the GDP growth or unemployment rate is. I wrote more about that here.

Not helping their cause.

Your questions, answered.

Reminder: Tangle is about repairing the relationship between reporters and readers. Simply reply to this email to submit a question and I’ll get to it in an upcoming newsletter.

My question is about data security. I recently watched Netflix's new documentary, The Great Hack. I feel that my generation, myself included, does not take this serious enough. The documentary at one point makes a claim that data is more valuable than oil.  How do you see this reshaping our policies, economics, and general sense of security now and in the future?

- Chris, Philadelphia, PA.

I finally got a chance to watch The Great Hack this weekend, and I’d certainly recommend any American or anyone who spends time on the internet give it their time. It has a bit of a left-leaning tilt, but it’s a great exploration of how the 2016 election and Brexit went down and how data played a part.

To your question, I don’t think it’s about how data will reshape policies, economics or a general sense of security, I think it’s about how it already has. Cyber warfare has been going on since the 1990s, and the U.S. government’s infrastructure is notoriously dated. You’d be shocked at how many important agencies or classified documents are basically secured on Windows ‘97. Data breaches are commonplace now — from Facebook allowing a breach of 50 million users’ data to 22 million social security numbers being lifted from the Office of Personnel Management. The top 10 breaches of 2018 is a jaw-dropping list, and it doesn’t even include the Democratic National Committee (DNC) falling for a basic phishing scam that helped sink Hillary Clinton’s candidacy in 2016.

As for the politics of it all, I think what we’re witnessing now is only going to get worse. Political groups like Cambridge Analytica, which claims to have had 5,000 data points on every U.S. voter in 2016, will continue to find ways to buy and farm voter profiles. When that data is leveraged, I believe it is, in fact, far more valuable than oil. After all, President Trump essentially won the election by 70,000 votes across three states. Most people my age don’t care whether they get targeted Instagram ads. In fact, many of them love it! But if that data is in the wrong people’s hands, it can be a major cause for concern.

One of the most interesting pieces of the puzzle, which wasn’t covered in The Great Hack, is location data. The New York Times did a phenomenal story on this last year. In essence, location data is some of the most valuable, telling and easily given away personal data. Say, for instance, that a 25-year-old woman is a member of a yoga group and likes a vegan recipe page on Facebook. Five years ago, that data was considered extremely valuable. Advertisers would predict, based on that small amount of info, that this woman was probably a left-leaning vegetarian who took care of her body and liked to exercise. But with location data in the mix, an advertiser might now see that the same woman stops at McDonalds four times a week on her way to work (yes, your phone’s location info is probably on and sending hundreds of data points to various apps every day). All of the sudden, the calculation changes: habitual real-life actions are a lot more informative than the outward, vegetarian, healthy persona that woman is trying to cultivate on Facebook. And now advertisers are realizing it. Location is data is a purified version of personal info and it’s being sold left and right.

I’ll add, too, the story that begins The Great Hack, which was one of my favorites to tell friends even before I saw the movie. Lots of people, myself included, have suspected that an advertisement we saw appeared because our phone was “listening” to us. The general story goes something like this: you’re talking about apples with a friend, you go home an hour later, you open your phone to go on Instagram, and BOOM! — there is an ad for apples. Most people connect the dots and think Instagram is listening to you, but the truth is actually far more sinister: Instagram’s methodology for targeting advertisements is just so good that it profiled you as someone who likes apples on the same day you were talking about them.

How to handle these growing treasure troves of data will be one of the next great cultural and political battles in Western countries. It’s already starting as Republicans and Democrats are beginning to coalesce around rhetoric about reigning in big tech companies. Some people are advocating that data rights be protected like human rights. Others want to put a government stranglehold on big tech and begin regulating the cultivation and sale of personal data. It’s impossible to guess how it will play out, but the premise of your question — that younger generations simply don’t care — is accurate and important. If a whole generation of cell phone and internet users decide that getting personalized ads is worth the tradeoff of privacy, personal data will continue to be an extremely valuable asset and capable of swinging elections, selling products and spreading propaganda.

A (personal) story that matters.

I was on a much-needed vacation in Cape Cod this weekend with my girlfriend and her family, and sharks were all people were talking about. I snapped the photo above during a late-night walk on one of the outer beaches. ICYMI: Sharks are moving north in search of colder water and prey, thanks to climate change. Cape Cod is a particularly comfy new habitat for them since it restricted sealing back in the 70s, which means there is lots of food. One 15-foot great white shark was recently spotted in as little as five feet of water and last year a surfer was killed in a shark attack. Now, tagged sharks are pinging all over the Cape on a daily basis. At the inn where we stayed, the owner told us that business was down 30 percent from last year and family-oriented restaurants were hurting because fewer family tourists were coming to Cape Cod. Climate change is often spoken about in the future tense as a thing that might impact our lives 50 or 100 years from now, but this story draws a direct line between climate change, human safety and impact on businesses. If you subscribe, Wall Street Journal has more here.

You thought our rallies were big?

A disconcerting tweet.

Have a nice day.

The Business Roundtable, a group of the United States’ top CEOs, released a new purpose statement on what a corporation should prioritize. Their new statement says that, instead of prioritizing shareholders’ interest over all else, corporations must consider the constituencies that make up the business from top to bottom. All this comes at a time when income equality is getting worse, CEOs are getting richer, and the next generation of American consumers have rising expectations about how ethical businesses should be. “Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity,” the statement says. You can read more here.


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Controversy erupts after Israel bans two American politicians.

Plus, our first-ever guest response and another creepy Facebook story.

Happy Thursday.

Reminder: Tangle gets sent out Monday through Thursday, around lunchtime. So you won’t hear from me again until after the weekend. Be sure to send in some questions by replying to this email and I’ll try to get them next week.


In my haste to get the newsletter out yesterday, I forgot to include my patented feel-good story to wash down all the craziness. I’m sorry for letting you down. I also spelled “dissent” like “descent” and felt an unbearable shame I won’t soon shake.

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Today’s read: 8 minutes.

Israel bans Tlaib and Omar, our first-ever guest response, and Facebook is listening to you.

Check this out.

A jarring map shows the real size of countries in relation to each other. The light blue is the traditional Mercator map that you probably learned from in school. The dark blue is those countries scaled to an accurate, relative size. What popped out to me: the continental U.S. is basically the size of Brazil. h/t Reddit.

Love to Philly.

Yesterday, several officers were shot during a drug bust in Philadelphia. My heart sank and my stomach turned when “active shooter” news alerts broke about my hometown. Sending healing vibes and hope for change to one of America’s greatest cities.

What D.C. is talking about.

Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib. On Thursday, stories broke that the two representatives would be barred from entering Israel. President Trump expressed support for the decision, claiming on Twitter that they “hate Israel and all Jewish people.” The two representatives, who have been critical of Israeli government, were planning a trip to visit the West Bank under the guidance of Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian lawmaker who has played a major role in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. As rumors circulated that Israel would bar Tlaib and Omar from visiting, Republican leaders, Trump’s press secretary and the Israeli ambassador to Washington D.C. insisted they were untrue. Then Trump tweeted and Israeli officials confirmed it was real.

What Democrats are saying.

What are you afraid of? Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib are democratically elected representatives, and Tlaib’s own family is Palestinian. Denying them entry to an allied nation is as undemocratic as it gets and only makes it seem like Israel has something to hide. In fact, many Democrats are saying just that: the whole situation proves out Tlaib and Omar’s perception of Israel. It’s an attempt at humiliating the only two Muslim women in Congress and it is a perfect example of how Israel dehumanizes Muslims or Palestinians. It’s also totally unprecedented.

What Republicans are saying.

You reap what you sow. Omar has spent the last few years saying or tweeting anti-Semitic things, and now she wants to come to Israel and use her visit to make the government look bad. Why would Israel let her in? Also, both Omar and Tlaib have supported boycott movements against Israel, hoping to punish the country economically for what they believe is its unjust treatment of Palestinians. Now Trump and Netanyahu made boycotting Israel easier: You’re now not allowed in. As for being “unprecedented,” ever heard of Keith Ellison? He’s the Muslim Representative who tried to bar a democratically elected Dutch official from entering the U.S. for his views on Islam in 2015.

My take.

Politically, it’s a dumb move by Trump and Netanyahu. Rejecting their visit after Republican leaders, your own press secretaries and the Israel-aligned U.S. ambassador said they would support a visit from Omar and Tlaib is just bad politics. It makes it clear this move is Netanyahu kowtowing to Trump, and for what? Omar and Tlaib are divisive in their own party already, and Trump is — once again — giving Democrats a reason to coalesce behind them. It’s just like the “go back” to your country moment from a few weeks ago. Democrats are going to come out in droves supporting Tlaib and Omar, as will a few Republicans, and the result will be Israel looking like it’s trying to cover something up and Trump wasting his time on another petty personal disagreement. Also, if Israel caves and eventually lets Tlaib and Omar in, their visit will get ten times the press it would have gotten otherwise. That’s going to be a major platform for them to tell the story they want to tell about Israel. Look no further than the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, who is a pretty center-right observer and has repeatedly taken hard lines criticizing Omar and Tlaib.

Also, here is The Jerusalem Post’s editor in chief:

Your questions, answered.

Reminder: Tangle is about repairing the relationship between reporters and readers. Simply reply to this email to submit a question and I’ll get to it in an upcoming newsletter.

Today we have our first-ever guest response. Matt Fuller, one of the best congressional reporters in the game, is tackling a question from Jeff in Aston, PA. Matt has a reputation for accurately predicting vote counts and some pretty hilarious interactions with members of Congress that he often shares on Twitter. He knows D.C. as well as anyone. You can follow him here.

Q: I have a question I've asked of those who run other newsletters (Axios AM, Popular Information) but I haven't gotten a fulsome answer: how is it that the Senate Majority Leader can prevent legislation passed by the House from EVER being given a vote or even debate? Perhaps more importantly, what would be the process to change this dynamic?

Jeff, Aston, PA.

Matt Fuller, on behalf of Tangle: Hi Jeff, how’s the Wawa in Aston, PA? I’ll assume it’s fantastic. There are two main things giving the Senate Majority Leader the power to control the floor schedule: Precedent and votes.

Senators have generally given up some of their power to set the debate in order to make the Senate, ironically, function. This is from a CRS report on the Legislative Process on the Senate Floor: “Senators relinquish their equal right to recognition and their right to make certain motions, and they do so in order to lend some order and predictability to the Senate’s proceedings. Otherwise, it would be nearly impossible for any Senator to predict with assurance when the Senate will be in session and what legislation it will consider.”

Theoretically, any Senator could make a motion to bring up a bill. But because of Senate precedent — and the majority’s interest in controlling what gets a vote — lawmakers would simply move to table the measure, effectively killing it. It’s a Senate tradition that gives the Majority Leader his agenda-setting functions. And to take them away, you’d need 51 votes. Obviously, Republicans want McConnell to have that power. But there also might be a number of Democrats who want to maintain ~the Senate norms~.

I imagine a vote trying to usurp the Majority Leader’s ability to decide what bills are taken up would go two ways: the first is overwhelming defeat (I’m thinking about a rogue Senator trying to bring up his own bill), and the second is a party-line vote (let’s imagine that Schumer organized the Democrats to all vote to bring up a background checks bill on guns). Either way, they don’t have the votes. Even if Democrats all took turns trying to bring up the bill — there’s a similar tactic in the House called a “conga line” — it wouldn’t be effective. The Senate Majority Leader could also put an end to such a tactic rather quickly, simply by seeking to be recognized. The Senate Majority Leader is recognized first when he wants to speak, and that’s actually foundational to the Majority Leader’s tight grip of the chamber.

You see, the other way in which the Majority Leader controls what legislation gets a vote is with amendments. This one’s actually a little trickier, but it has to do with “filling the amendment tree.” Again, because the Senate Majority Leader is recognized on the floor first, he has an opportunity to offer all the amendments allowable to a bill, thus stymieing other Senators from offering their own amendment. In our current Senate, McConnell typically offers shell amendments that can be modified with actual text. So you may see McConnell offering three amendments that are basically blank placeholders for a future agreement with Democrats or other Senators. But once again, to discontinue this Senate practice, you need 51 votes. (Essentially, a Senator would offer an amendment to be considered, the presiding officer would refuse to consider it because the amendment tree has been filled — which prevents new amendments from being added until the earlier amendments are dispensed with — and then the Senator would appeal the ruling of the chair. This is basically the process for “going nuclear” in the Senate — with some steps left out because this is already a long and complicated answer.)

There’s really no way to change this without 51 votes in the Senate. And unless you can convince Republicans to act against their own self-interest for the good of minority rights, there’s really not much Democrats can do, outside of the public pressure campaigns they’ve already taken, against a man who famously relishes in Democrats hating him. Welcome to ~The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body~.

Another one bites the dust.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will drop out of the presidential race today, a source close to the campaign told the Associated Press. Gov. Hickenlooper was a moderate Democrat warning about the dangers of partisanship. He got rich after founding a series of brewpubs. Rumors are he may now challenge Republican Cory Gardner in a senate race.

Since you love conspiracies.

The autopsy report on Jeffrey Epstein found that he had a broken hyoid bone in his neck, near the Adam’s apple. Via The Washington Post (emphasis mine): “Such breaks can occur in those who hang themselves, particularly if they are older, according to forensics experts and studies on the subject. But they are more common in victims of homicide by strangulation, the experts said.” If you thought those conspiracy theories might die quietly, think again.

A story that matters.

Facebook is transcribing the audio it picks up from your cell phone. That’s according to Bloomberg, who got several of the transcribers to tell their stories anonymously. Facebook also didn’t deny the charges, though they deflected by saying, “we paused human review of audio more than a week ago.” Apple and Amazon have both come under fire for similar practices. Check the settings on your phone, ‘cause that mic is live. Read more here.

Number(s) of the day.

Two unrelated polls spell trouble for Republicans. A new Gallup poll found that, since December, support for allowing border refugees into the United States climbed. 57 percent approved of admitting Central American refugees last month, up from 51 percent in December.

In a Fox News poll, 90 percent of Americans said they support requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers. 81 percent support passing "red flag" laws that allow police to take guns from people shown to be a danger to themselves or others. 67 percent support banning assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons.

Fact check.

Kamala Harris has now made two false, fearful claims regarding autoworkers: during her July 12 appearance on The Breakfast Club radio show, she said 700,000 autoworkers were going to lose their jobs before the end of the year. Yesterday, on CNN, she claimed 300,000 autoworkers would lose their jobs before the end of the year. There is no credible study to support either claim. CNN has more here.

Have a good one.

A Canadian energy company says it turned five tons of plastic waste into thousands of gallons of diesel and fuel in a single day. No, that’s not a typo. Sparta Group has a patented process it calls “Phoenix” that can take single use plastic bags and Styrofoam, heat them up in an oxygen-free environment, and then capture the gas and turn it into liquid that is used for fuel. The Sparta Group president says they are already using the plastic-turned-fuel to run their own trucks. You can read more here.

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What the heck is Medicare-for-all

And how are the Democrats' plans different?

Q: My question is related to health care policy, specifically Medicare-for-all. Could you go through the differences between Medicare-for-all and a hybrid plan that would allow for private insurance to still be an option?

- Hafeez, Pittsburgh, PA. 

Tangle: This is a really complex issue, but I’ll try to simplify it best I can. Since health care is the number one issue for voters across party lines, I think it’s worth tackling just this question today.

First, it’s important to understand what MedicareMedicaid and Obamacare are.

Medicaid is a state and federal program that assists people based on financial need. It’s paid by collecting taxes and — generally speaking — provides health insurance to low-income Americans.

Medicare is a health insurance program for senior citizens (over 65) and people under 65 with certain disabilities. Like social security, every paycheck you get has a “Medicare tax” that takes money out and puts it into the Medicare pool. Then, when you’re 65, you automatically qualify for Medicare benefits regardless of your income. The idea is a lot like social security: you pay into it until you qualify, and then your health insurance is covered through the big pool of money. This is the program most Democrats are talking about “expanding.” Right now, 19 percent of Americans (~60 million people) are covered by Medicare and 14 percent are covered by Medicaid. But Medicare doesn’t make insurance free. Lots of stuff, like nursing homes, dental and vision, aren’t covered. You also still pay monthly premiums and copays.

Obamacare, the controversial health care law that President Barack Obama passed, worked by mandating every American either buy into health insurance or pay a tax. The goal wasn’t to change insurance for people who had it, but to insure those who were uninsured. The basic idea was the healthy people who weren’t buying insurance would have to pay for health insurance (or pay the tax) and that money would help cover all the sick people. Obamacare also provided subsidies for middle-class families that incentivized them to buy government insurance. It also expanded Medicaid to help cover low-income people. The mandate to buy insurance or pay a tax was the major point of contention and is still being challenged in court today. The rollout of Obamacare was also very messy, and while it did help insure millions of uninsured people, it also increased the cost of insurance for lots of Americans. A majority of Americans approve of Obamacare, though the split is nearly even.

Since Medicare is run exclusively by the federal government, and Medicaid is run jointly with states, Congress and presidential candidates (which function as the federal government) mostly talk about expanding Medicare.

Generally speaking, here is the breakdown of how candidates want expand Medicare and the difference between Medicare-for-all and Medicare-for-all-hybrids.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have the most popular and well-known Medicare-for-all plans. These plans would cover every American. These plans would almost entirely eliminate private and employer-provided insurance in four years. Private insurance would still exist for certain things that the Medicare expansion wouldn’t cover, like cosmetic surgery. They would expand Medicare benefits to cover vision and dental, which most Medicare plans don’t cover right now. You wouldn’t pay fees when you go to the doctor and wouldn’t pay a premium, the monthly cost of your health insurance. The only time you’d spend money under Sanders’ plan would be for prescription drugs, which would be capped at $200 a year. This would actually go further than the current Medicare system, which still charges premiums and has costs associated with going to the doctor. Sounds pretty nice, right? Here’s the catch: There also wouldn’t be options for any other kinds of insurance. Also, it’s still unclear how either would pay for their plan in its entirety, but most of their proposals involve raising taxes, taxing the wealthy, imposing fees on banks, taxing health insurers, taxing medical manufacturers, etc. Instead of monthly premiums and deductibles and all that jazz, taxes would go up — pretty much for everyone. For instance, under Sanders’ plan, there’d be a “4% income-based premium paid by households” each year. For a typical family of four earning $50,000, that’d be $844 a year. Families making less than $29,000 a year wouldn’t pay this fee, but it’d be just one way families would be indirectly paying for insurance through taxes and fees. Sanders and Warren’s pitch is simple: the taxes and fees you pay will be a lot less than what you’re paying for health insurance. But until we know exactly how much we’d have to pay in taxes to cover their plans, that’s a hard claim to verify.

After Sanders and Warren, the next level of Medicare-for-all plans vary as “hybrids.” Beto O’Rourke calls his plan “Medicare for America,” and he wants to expand Medicare to people who don’t have any other insurance (approximately 30 million Americans don’t have health insurance) and anyone already on government plans. He’d raise taxes on those making more than $500,000 a year and increase taxes on products like tobacco and alcohol to pay for it. Other plans, like Kamala Harris’s, are slightly more moderate (FWIW, Sen. Harris co-sponsored Bernie’s plan in the Senate, before running for POTUS). Her plan allows private insurers to stay if they follow certain new rules and tries to slowly transition Americans into Medicare-for-all over the course of 10 years. It guarantees coverage for all Americans, like Sanders’ plan. While Sanders has proposed taxing houses earning more than $29,000 a year to cover his plan, Harris raises that number to $100,000, focusing more on the upper-middle class. Pete Buttigieg says he would create a government plan that competes with private insurers and rather than replacing them, but it’s still unclear what his health care plan actually is. Then there is Joe Biden. He wants to keep health insurance plans mostly as they are, but add a wrinkle where people have the “right” to buy into Medicare-like public health insurance programs if they want to. Other, more moderate candidates like former Maryland congressman John Delaney, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock all attacked the Medicare-for-all plans. They say the plans take away American freedoms by forcing people off of private or employer-based insurance, which a large numbers of Americans are satisfied with (about half the country receives insurance from employers, the other half gets it from a public program like Medicare or Medicaid). Delaney says Medicare-for-all plans would cripple rural hospitals which are already losing money, since it would allow the government to pay hospitals and physicians less than they’re paid by private insurers. Sanders says the money hospitals would save on bureaucratic costs — taken over by the government — would insure they could remain profitable and stay open. Analysts seem split on how this would play out.

One final note: there is an unspoken thing happening amidst this debate. In reality, Medicare-for-all is not something that is going to happen in the next few years or maybe even the next decade. Sanders, Warren and all the other candidates understand this. Part of the driving force here is that they’ve moved the goalposts and brought what was once seen as a radical lefty plan into the mainstream, largely thanks to the popularity of Sanders’ Medicare-for-all pitch during the 2016 election. A major function of most of the plans, including many of the hybrids, is that newborn babies would be born into the government-funded Medicare plan. This would crystallize the slow government takeover of the health care industry and, as Democrats are selling it, would guarantee health care as a human right to the next generation. While it’s true that many Americans are satisfied with their employer-provided plans, it’s also true that health care costs are rising faster than wages and unexpected hospital bills are crippling families with debt. That, and the millions of uninsured, are the driving forces behind the popularity of government-run health care.

This breakdown is part of Tangle, an independent, ad-free, non-partisan politics newsletter where I answer reader questions from across the country. If you want to receive content like this in your inbox, press the “Sign up now” button below. You can ask your own questions by emailing isaacmsaul@gmail.com or replying to a newsletter.

Uhh... is China okay?

Tangle breaks down the protests. Plus, could a third party candidate win?

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Today’s read: 7 minutes.

China, a third-party candidate and how our kids are being radicalized.

What D.C. is talking about.

China. Things are tense on all fronts. Protesters in Hong Kong disrupted one of the biggest airports in the world this week, and President Donald Trump’s trade war is getting complicated all at the same time. Until recently, the protests were mostly peaceful. That seems to be changing. Lots of readers have written in asking what’s going on in China. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Hong Kong technically belongs to China, but it’s a very different place. It has a different culture, a different political system and even its own money. Hong Kong also has things China doesn’t, like a guarantee of free press, the right to protest, and free speech. Mainland China’s political system is a communist regime (think: lots of surveillance, ethnic cleansing, state propaganda, total government control).

  • Hong Kong is now in its 10th straight week of public, disruptive demonstrations. Millions have been marching in the streets (and now in Hong Kong’s airport). Protests broke out after a Hong Kong politician suggested passing a law that would allow people to be extradited for crimes from Hong Kong to mainland China.

  • Protests have continued for weeks because, under President Xi Jingping, China’s influence has been creeping into Hong Kong for six years. China has been asserting itself as having “complete jurisdiction” over Hong Kong. I.e. people who were mostly free 10 years ago are now feeling an increased presence of China’s police state and government.

  • Hong Kong’s wealthiest and China do share a similar goal: economic dominance. That is creating tension between some Hong Kong elite and the protesters on the ground who have different objectives. As for the mainland Chinese: by most accounts, they have bought the propaganda from the Chinese government are aren’t too interested in or supportive of Democracy and the protesters.

What Republicans are saying.

It’s complicated. Some more traditional Republicans are taking a sharp tone and supporting the protesters. Reminder: Communism and Republicans don’t go well together. China is the actual living embodiment of the socialist state that Republicans warn is coming from the likes of Bernie Sanders or Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, so it’d be pretty hypocritical for them not to stand up and speak out against China. But there’s this little problem called Donald Trump. He and China’s president get along pretty well, and Trump is walking a tight rope as China and the U.S. negotiate their trade qualms. Trump is being careful, and has expressed tepid support for both the protesters and the Chinese government. That’s irked Democrats and Republicans. On Tuesday, he tweeted these not very calming words: “Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!”

What Democrats are saying.

The President needs to speak out in support of the protesters. Hong Kong is fighting for Democracy, putting life and limb on the line in the streets, and now would be a great time for America to show some love. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who could very well be dealing with China as president in a few years, said “The people of Hong Kong are making clear that they will not tolerate repression, and their movement affirms: The power is with the people. They deserve our support and the support of the world.” House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Trump should walk away from his statements about Hong Kong. “If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out elsewhere.”

My take.

I try to avoid taking too strong of a stance and I firmly believe there are more than two sides to most issues. But this one isn’t hard. America either stands for liberty, freedom and justice or it doesn’t. Trade negotiations don’t trump that. There’s nothing wrong with mainland Chinese people, but there is plenty wrong with the mainland Chinese government. It’s using mass surveillance to crush dissent and oppress minorities, and now it’s sharing that mass surveillance tech with other countries so they can do the same. It’s imprisoning millions of Muslims and forcing them to violate their own religious beliefs. China’s crimes against humanity are numerous. The people of Hong Kong — and, for the most part, the government there — are a beacon of freedom in a region with little of it. America should stand in solidarity with the protesters.

A quick update:

Earlier this week, Tangle covered the job fair in Mississippi to replace the deported undocumented immigrants from the Koch Foods factory. Reminder:

“The news poses a real-life case study for two opposing views in the immigration debate. For decades, immigration restrictionists have claimed that undocumented immigrants have stolen jobs that would otherwise go to Americans. Pro-immigrant activists have responded to this claim by saying that undocumented immigrants often take less-desirable jobs that American workers don’t want and ultimately contribute to the economy by paying taxes.”

Tangle checked back in. According to the Clarion Ledger, 25-30 people showed up the jobs fair, which is aiming to replace about 680 workers. You can read more here.

Your questions, answered.

Reminder: Tangle is about repairing the relationship between reporters and readers. Simply reply to this email to submit a question and I’ll get to it in an upcoming newsletter.

Q: Is it realistic (any time soon) for a third political party to gain serious steam and become a main political party, or overtake either the dems or reps? I want to hope for that to happen, but it seems unlikely. I just don't know what would have to happen for that to be possible -- obviously a majority of supporters, but what political/bureaucratic hurdles would have to be overcome to get there?

- Brendan, Madison, WI.

Tangle: I love this question and I’m surprised you’re the first person to ask it. The third party question is an important one, and it seems like it comes up during every election. You could make a case that the 2016 presidential election was swung in Trump’s favor by third party voters in key states who punched a ballot for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein instead of Hillary Clinton or Trump.

To answer your question directly: No, I don’t think it’s possible for it to happen any time soon. That being said, since it looks like you’re fishing for a little hope, I’ll offer the enthusiastic signals a serious third political party or candidate could disrupt the two party system we have now.

For one, Sen. Bernie Sanders is technically an independent and he’s one of the most popular politicians on the planet. His party affiliation is meaningful and he frequently targets Democrats with his ire along with Republicans. I had a friend who once said that “Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are not at 9 and 3 o’lock, they’re at 10 and 2 o’clock.” His point, in essence, was that Sanders and Trump are a lot closer to each other than we often think about them in our two-party minds. And he’s right. Bernie’s anti-establishment, anti-some-Democrats, anti-most-Republicans stance is proof that a third party positioning could gain momentum. There’s also Bill Weld, the old-school Republican gearing up to challenge Trump. He’s got the support of all the never-Trump Republicans. While POTUS enjoys a ton of support amongst registered R’s, it seems like as the days go by he is losing more people than he’s gaining. The Trumpism takeover of the party is complete and won’t go away, but as Republicans retire in droves and big names in the party like Jeff Flake, Justin Amash, etc. publicly criticize POTUS, moderate Republicans seem to be carving out their own third party placement in the political lexicon. Right now we call them “never-Trumpers” but, who knows, maybe in 5 years they’ll be “independents?” Then, there’s also the fact that younger Americans are increasingly reluctant to identify with a political party. Most young Americans lean left and far more identify with Democrats than Republicans, but the reluctance is real. Some 30 years ago, if you asked someone whether they were a Democrat or Republican, and the answer was usually straightforward. Ask a young American now, and it’s a lot more complicated. That leaves the door wide open for a new political party or an independent coalition to grow and court those voters — but it will take decades.

As for the obstacles to overcome, they’re numerous. Most notably is the way our elections work. Sen. Sanders runs as a Democrat, despite being an independent, because he needs the full force of the party behind him. He needs endorsements, donations, email lists and structural support from organizations built to win elections. And, for now, those organizations almost exclusively operate to elect Democrats and Republicans. There’s also the simple fact that most people identify and vote with the party they inherited from their parents. That could be changing in the next generation, but it’s a fact of life that you are predisposed to support the politics of the house you grew up in. Most conversations are still happening in the parameters of Democrats and Republicans, so most of the next generation will grow up thinking they have one of two sides to pick.

All of this being said and considered, I do think one charming, good-looking, charismatic candidate with a good resume and a few killer ideas could break through running as an independent. Grassroots donations through the internet make it a lot easier to win elections for just about anyone who can make a viral video, so who knows — maybe an indie candidate is planning their next move right under our noses?

A story that matters.

Joanna Schroeder, a writer and mother with a following on Twitter, shared a story about how she caught her son being radicalized online. She says social media vloggers are laying the groundwork for young, white teenagers to be woo’d by the alt-right and white supremacy. To me, it sounded absurd on the face of it. But as I read through her Twitter thread, I found it convincing. Here are the first few tweets. You can click in to read more.

A very bad prediction.

Seven months ago, Hugh Hewitt was on MSNBC and told viewers that Trump will unite America by sending forces to Venezuela and overthrowing Nicolas Maduro. We’re seven months later and… how’s that working out?

One more thing.

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